The Number Of Homeless Female Veterans Is On The Rise

Look, I know ’tis the season to be jolly, but downer alert: The huge increase in the number of women who’ve enlisted to serve our country has an alarming flip side. The number of female homeless veterans has doubled over the past decade. It’s now estimated that 6,500 ex-service women are out on the street. Many of these women have mental health issues or substance abuse problems, and a lot of them have a childhood history of sexual trauma, or experienced it during military service. Services for these national heroines are dwindling, and younger female veterans are showing up in apparently record numbers at veterans affairs (VA) hospital, too. Homeless female veterans are often younger than their male counterparts and more likely to bring children with them, if they lose their homes. “It is always hard to find a place or resources or help when you are homeless,” says Senator Patty Murray, who is on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “It is almost impossible if you are a woman. Most of the VA facilities cater to men, and you can’t take a mom with two little kids and put her in the middle of a homeless center with 30 or 40 male veterans.”

Furthermore, as things stand, female veterans who are homeless, or in danger of becoming so, are less likely to reach out for help through systems that might split up their families and place their children in foster care. The good news is that VA’s Homeless Veterans Programs Director, Pete Dougherty, says the VA is becoming more proactive and family friendly, and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has pledged to end veteran homelessness in five years, including women veterans. Five seconds would be better. [AP]